SFWA’s Nebula Awards ballot had something interesting happen this year. After the final ballot was announced, one of the novelettes was determined to be only 7,070 words long, and was removed from the ballot because novelettes are works that are at least 7,500 words but less than 17,500 words. I need to emphasize that I am not part of the Nebulas committee and I am not in any way privy to how this error happened, but this is a great opportunity to talk about word count and how it has changed since I’ve been writing.
Yes, something as simple as how many words there are in a story has changed, and radically, over the years. Continue reading
I spent today teaching four of my five Freshman Comp classes — Mondays and Wednesdays are brutal for me this semester — all about the different kinds of sentences: simple, compound, complex, and complex-compound. We do this by writing a whole bunch of them, and then asking ourselves what effect we get by having a whole lot of them all in a row. (Hint: the answer we’re looking for is that we want to mix them up.) But it occurred to me that the advice that the classes all seemed to come to is also good advice for fiction writers.
So, this afternoon, as I was on my way out the door to replace the 10-year-old cargo pants that finally fell apart in the laundry, my husband looked at me and said, “Oh, Mr. English-major type, I need a definition of ‘charm’ for my theatre analysis class. Their textbook uses the term and gives examples of charming dialogue, but it doesn’t define it.”
Well, I stood there slack-jawed for a minute, stumped. How do you define something as ineffable as “charm”?
Well, here’s what I came up with: Continue reading
I just saw Interstellar. I’m not terribly interested in writing a review, but I do feel like I’m now able to chime in on the internet controversy surrounding it by acknowledging that the science in it is spotty. The question we need to ponder as writers is this: Does that matter? Continue reading
I taught dialogue in my creative writing class yesterday. One thing I’ve noticed over the years that I’ve always found interesting about dialogue is this: poets tend to be very good at writing it. And I had come up with a hypothesis about why that is, and I decided to test it on the poets in the room. Continue reading